Managing My Boss

For class, I read another great article by John Kotter all about how to manager your boss. I really liked this article because it gave me the opportunity to reflect on what I could be doing to better my relationship with my boss.  I believe relationships are a two-way street. One person shouldn’t have to carry the burden of responsibility. Kotter (2006) writes, “…because the boss-subordinate relationship is not like the one between a parent and a child, the burden for managing the relationship should not and cannot fall entirely on the boss” (pg. 505). Instead, part of the responsibility falls on the worker to seek out the boss’s goals, problems, and working style and to make adjustments that establish mutual expectations (pg. 512). This requires the worker have a good sense of self-awarness as well. As an employee, you need to also know your strengths and weaknesses. The bottom line comes down to openly communicating with your boss about your own goals and expectations. Simply expecting the work to speak for itself cannot substitute for a good working relationship.

When I became interested in academic advising as a profession, a personal friend set up a meeting with her colleague who is now my current supervisor. When I first walked into her office, she was so warm and inviting, but most of all, passionate and enthusiastic about her job. After all, most advisors have a counseling background. She treated my new found career interest from an counseling perspective. She mentored me to figure out my own path, which ultimately led me to this profession. My boss shines when it comes to individually motivating our team to work at their best. Of course, there are  considerations that I think make it a bit easier for me to get along with my boss. She’s a Gen X and I’m a Gen Y, so we are pretty close in age. Larger age gaps can sometimes make it more difficult to understand one another. She has an open door policy and welcomes frequent questions and concerns.

Even though spontaneity is acceptable with her, I still make it my goal to schedule monthly meetings with her to tell her my interests and needs for professional development. She always listens and supports my goals. But what am I doing to figure out her professional goals? Are we in alignment? I feel as though I have a good working relationship with my boss, but  it could always be better (especially after reading Kotter’s article). Kotter says just taking time to pause and ask yourself questions like “Do I really know what my boss expects of me? Am I satisfied with these expectations? Does he or she know what resources or information or help I need?” can help a great deal (pg. 515). I like readings that force me to stop and question if I’m operating at my best.  I have to admit that I don’t think I do a good job listing out the specific things I need my boss to help me with. I could also take more time to ask her about her own professional goals. I can tell her my goal for career advancement, but what does that specifically mean to her? What do I need my boss to do in order to help me get there? She isn’t responsible for outlining the steps for me. She supports me, but ultimately it’s my job to let her know what resources and help I need. I’m reminded of Schein’s argument that people aren’t resistant to change; they’re resistant to ambiguity. The role of a change agent is to work with a client to specifically list the details of that journey. If I’m going to develop myself professionally, I need to be more specific with my boss on ways she  can help me.  After reading this article, I’m inspired to show up more prepared in my next individual meeting with my boss. I’m also encouraged to ask her more about her own professional goals to make sure we have a mutual understanding and shared expectation.

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